Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS) – July 1 Changes
As foreshadowed in previous posts, there are significant changes to employer-sponsored permanent residency visas from 1 July 2012 covering the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS).
RSMS from July 1 2012
- The RSMS visa subclasses 119 and 857 will no longer exist and will be replaced by the Subclass 187 visa;
- The Subclass 187 visa will have three streams each with different requirements;
- The geographic location of the visa applicant is no longer relevant to the type of visa application lodged (the “onshore”/”offshore” distinction has been removed);
- It is possible to submit an Expression of Interest in the new SkillSelect database if looking for a sponsor for an RSMS visa; and
- RSMS visa applications will be e-lodged.
What are the 187 Visa Streams?
The three streams in the Subclass 187 visa will be:
- Temporary Residence Transition (“Transition”) - Existing Subclass 457 visa holders are eligible to make application under this stream for a matching or closely aligned position after holding a Subclass 457 visa with the same employer for two years;
- Direct Entry (“Direct”) – For applicants who are not eligible for the Transition stream;
- The third stream is only available where the sponsoring employer has a Labour Agreement with the Federal Government or if applying under a Regional Migration Agreement (ie the sponsoring employer is not a Standard Business Sponsor);
Significant Visa Changes Summary
The key changes are:
- English language requirements have been raised for RSMS visas from 1 July to “vocational” (IELTS 5) for Transition and “competent” (IELTS 6) for the Direct stream. There are some limited exceptions;
- Transition stream visa applicants will not need a skills assessment - making application preparation quicker;
- Regional Certified Body certification will not be needed in relation to the Transition stream as the need for the position has already been established - making application preparation quicker. Certification will be required in the Direct stream;
- Positions that can be nominated will include occupations included in the ANZSCO classification in skill levels 1 – 3;
- Applicants will have to be under the age of 50 years at the time of application and there will be very few exceptions;
- “Exceptional circumstance” exceptions in relation to skills and English language will no longer be available and there will be very limited specific exemptions;
- English language testing results will be valid for three years, instead of the present two years; and
- Salary benchmarking against Australian workers is required.
Who Will Benefit from the RSMS Visa Changes?
From 1 July:
- Those applicants aged 45 – 49 years who would previously have had to argue “exceptional circumstances” to be granted an RSMS visa;
- General skilled and business skills migration applicants using the SkillSelect database who can also indicate their interest in RSMS (and ENS and subclass 457 temporary visas) at the same time as their independent skilled migration application;
- Existing subclass 457 visa holders with two years experience working in Australia for the same employer who should experience shorter application preparation and processing times.
- All visa applicants should benefit from shorter processing times with the introduction of e-lodgement.
- Applicants over 50 years who have held a 457 visa for the past four years with the same employer and who earn in excess of the Fair Work High Income Threshold (AUD118,100 from 1 July 2011 rising to $123, 300 effective 1 July 2012) will be eligible to apply.
Who Will Lose?
From 1 July:
- Most applicants over 50 will no longer be eligible to apply;
- Applicants with low English language skills will generally be ineligible and “exceptional circumstances” can no longer be argued;
- Applicants with lower skill levels will no longer be able to claim “exceptional circumstances” and may no longer be eligible under the RSMS program. They will be mostly likely to succeed under the Agreements stream.
RSMS Change Summary
The simplification of the new RSMS program - which replaces two visa subclasses with one and abolishes the old “onshore” and “offshore” distinction - is welcomed. The changes will also streamline the pathway to permanent residency for holders of Subclass 457 visas who have been working for more than two years with the same employer. The increase in eligible age (to 50 years) reflects the current workforce trend to work beyond 60. However the removal of the “exceptional circumstances” provisions in relation to age means very few foreign workers over 50 years of age will be able to use RSMS program. The removal of the “exceptional circumstances” provisions in relation to English and skills will deliver workers better equipped to work in Australia after visa grant.